In the present investigation we focused on 2 broad sets of questions: Do parental overreactivity, laxness, and corporal punishment show evidence of normative change in early to middle childhood? Are persistently elevated child conduct problems (CPs) associated with deviations from normative changes in, as well as high initial levels of, discipline practices? Four hundred fifty-three couples with 3- to 7-year-old children were recruited via random digit dialing and studied at 3 annual assessments. Parents completed questionnaire measures of all study constructs. Normative declines were found in maternal corporal punishment and laxness. Maternal overreactivity showed a normative increase. For fathers, only corporal punishment showed evidence of a normative decline. The declines in mothers' corporal punishment and laxness, and in fathers' corporal punishment, exhibited little variability. In contrast, the trajectories of maternal overreactivity were significantly variable. High-increasing CPs were more common than low-stable CPs in families with greater increases in maternal overreactivity. Highincreasing CPs were also more common in families with greater initial maternal overreactivity and corporal punishment. Yet in no case did discipline practices significantly distinguish children on high-increasing versus high-decreasing CPs trajectories. In tests of alternative models, child effects were found for all parenting variables, suggesting reciprocal causation. The findings are discussed relative to etiological models of CPs and implications for preventive intervention.
- Conduct problems
- Early childhood
- Middle childhood
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Life-span and Life-course Studies